It was a cold bright day in June and the clocks were striking thirteen as Boris Johnson secured the votes of one hundred and fourteen MPs. The master of Double Think is powering his way to Number 10. Let me dust down George Orwell’s 1984 for you. ‘Double think means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them’. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
As someone who has been a Conservative all my life, who has served in Parliament and whose has commentated on politics for a very, very long time, I really thought that I understood how the Conservative party ticks. More fool me. To an extent. Because the Conservative party that I was proud to serve has all but evaporated. The party of compassion, of compromise, of equality of opportunity, of vigorously, yet politely, debating an opponent’s point of view, of listening to alternative arguments, is no longer the mainstream. It is the minority. As the hard left of Labour have conflated the fate of the Palestinians with anti semitism, many Tories have convinced themselves that if we do not leave the EU on the dot of midnight on the 30th October the ‘dream’ of Brexit will be lost forever and the Conservative party will be destroyed. Worse, there is a strain of perverted thought that unless we parrot this mantra we are not ‘true’ Conservatives. That we are enemies of the people and traitors. Back to 1984. “Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own. Except that you are insane.”
I am almost tired of saying that Remainers like me, Stewart, Soames, Hunt and many, many others who believe that Brexit will be a terrible act of self harm respect the result of the referendum. We have to just get it right. The latest mantra is that we can “manage” no deal. Really? How do you manage an agricultural industry for 40% tariffs on their exports? How do you manage the destruction of the automotive and aerospace industry? ‘Ah, these are just bumps in the road’, is the next mantra.
The terrible, terrible, truth is that the EU has calculated that a no deal Brexit will hit us worse than them. And the 27 will stick together. There maybe some tinkering at the edges. They may even agree have a time limit on the backstop. But only if Ireland agrees. Any sort of deal, any sort of fudge, of tinkering, cannot happen before 31 October. And that is want the fanatics want. Get us out first and cobble together a basic survival plan. And that is all that it can be.
All of this is old potatoes. The arguments won’t change. But the players will. The horror that is Johnson, who cheapens and demeans everything this country stands for must be stopped. It must be our first priority. The tipping point will be Sunday. Will he take part in a televised debate with the other candidates? He will be damned if he does and may destroyed if he doesn’t . It’s a fine calculation.The most cynical view is that his dishonesty, incompetence and laziness has been ‘priced in’. This is what we have come to. This total fraud must not be allowed to con his way into Number 10. The Johnson strategy is not to be open to questioning until after he is in the final two, because then it doesn’t matter, particularly if he is against Hunt, or The Saj. Both are decent men, but would be destroyed in a national debate by the sheer cynical dirty tricks of the Johnson campaign. And his Ministry of Truth.
Let me try and explain the Johnson psyche. It is more Orwellian than Trumpian in many ways. Any journalist who asks difficult but legitimate questions is smearing. Any allegation from another candidate is Fake News. Any media outlet who is not Pavlovian in admiration is an enemy and must be destroyed.
His launch was instructive. Of course he side stepped every question, but observe how he did it. Observe how he patronised and tried to humiliate the women questioners. Laura Kuenssberg and Beth Rigby are at the top of their profession. Honest, hard hitting, impartial. Great reporters. Both were booed. The Johnson attack dogs said that this is because they were ‘editorialising’, Truthspeak for asking difficult questions. If this man is so terrified of scrutiny how the hell will he cope with PMQs every Wednesday?
“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”.
Of course he doesn’t want to be asked questions about his lies and his political record. And bizarre claims are being made by Ministry of Truthers. Liz Truss said that he was a “brilliant Foreign Secretary”. The Johnson game plan is simple. Dominate the narrative. It doesn’t matter what is said as long as it is positive and uplifting.
“Who controls the past controls the future”.
I hope that Sunday can be Rory Stewart’s Matt Santos moment. There are another five weeks to go. Anything can happen. But my instincts tell me that something exciting is about to happen in British politics.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Lynton Crosby will have to think up a new vote winning slogan. Let me make a suggestion.
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”.
His campaign is horribly cynical,
“Power is tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together in new shapes of your own choosing”.
But don’t worry. Big Boris is watching you.